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Super Marcio, CJ save SMB

MANILA, Philippines — Under threat of a hazardous 0-2 hole, San Miguel Beer rose to the challenge and finally cracked the Meralco code.

The defending champion Beermen summoned all their strength to overcome another tooth-and-nail battle with the Bolts, 95-94, and tie up the PBA Philippine Cup title series at 1-1 last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

CJ Perez rifled in 34 points as he led SMB’s gutsy fightback from an eight-point deficit capped by a pair of huge triples to escape with the equalizer.

Perez scored seven in the final canto, including a big-time trey that countered Chris Banchero’s earlier shot from deep and put the Beermen to within 93-92 with 22 seconds left.

Although Banchero stretched Meralco’s lead a bit to 94-92 with a split, Marcio Lassiter stepped forward to do what he does best – hit long bombs – and send SMB in front, 95-94 with 13 ticks left.

The Beermen then survived a wild ending that saw Banchero miss the potential go-ahead layup, Perez flub two foul shots and Bong Quinto committing an error after grabbing the defensive rebound.

June Mar Fajardo produced a double-double of 17 markers and 13 boards while Don Trollano and Mo Tautuaa helped out with 12 and 10, respectively, as SMB beat Meralco for the first time this conference. Prior to the Game 2 win, the Beermen lost to the Bolts, 86-93 in the finals opener two nights ago and 92-95 back in the eliminations.

Jorge Gallent and his troops spoiled the season-high 25 and nine boards of Cliff Hodge and the blue-collar effort of his Meralco teammates in a game witnessed by a good-sized crowd led by top honcho Manny V. Pangilinan.

The protagonists break their deadlock tomorrow, also at the Big Dome.

Meanwhile, NLEX is handing the steering wheel to nine-time champion coach Jong Uichico as the Road Warriors continue their drive for a franchise breakthrough in the PBA.

The team’s lead assistant coach since December, Uichico is taking over from Frankie Lim, who is stepping down after four conferences highlighted by two quarterfinals appearances.

Uichico’s appointment marks a “new chapter” for the Road Warriors, whose best finish since joining the league in 2014 was a pair of semifinal entries